A Journey

“Where do you want to travel to next?” This was a question I asked my husband on our first hike together, which he thought was a date. I ask everyone I meet if they want to go hiking because I love the outdoors. Years later, we decided it could be our first date because we both liked each other instantly and the trail turned into many trails throughout the years. Traveling and being outside is one of our shared loves. The other is the ability to think the same thing at the same time even all these years later. After asking him the question about where to travel, he said “Machu Picchu” and this was the same place I had in mind. Before we planned this trip, we decided to get married and then it became a Honeymoon excursion. Since the altitude is much higher in Peru than here in the desert we needed to prepare our bodies and train.

We thought Mt. Charleston would be the best place to hike every weekend to get our lungs ready for the altitude difference. Cusco, Peru has an elevation of 11,152 feet and Mt. Charleston, Nevada stands at 11,916 feet at its peak. Chris and I were not able to hike all the way to the top before our trip, so we trained on our original trail, and we climbed to about 8,000 feet. Northloop Trailhead has some spots for cars so it is recommended to arrive as early as possible, especially on the weekends like we did. Going as often as we could, we felt we were ready for the trip at this point. In a future blog I will write about where we traveled, the elevation gains, and the need for Oxygen at certain points of the trail while in Peru. For now, I will share the journey we took to South America. 

After hiking Mt. Charleston on the weekends, the next idea was to visit our friends in Ohio and Chicago, then fly out of O’Hare. The tickets were more affordable and we got to stop off at our friend’s farms along the way. We drove to Chicago, to pick up a friend, and then continued on to Ohio to stay at Benham Farms, where the hosts are an amazing couple with oodles of information on techniques, crop development, and grazing rotation. We were also able to venture into Yellow Springs for a walk along the river and a taste of the awesome brews from Yellow Springs Brewery. It is always nice to have a break in the hard work during the middle of the day. Then we got to go back to the farm for a night of gazing at fireflies. Not a bad way to end the day or this blog post.

Thank you for reading and have a happy Monday!

-Karen Hilliard

All Weather is Good Weather


“All weather is good weather,” is a phrase we use in our household. No matter the circumstances, we try to be outside. Luckily, we do not have hurricanes or tornadoes in the desert here, or severe blizzards. All of this being said, the rain, snow, sleet, hail, heat, etc. keeps us on our toes and we try to keep a positive mindset. I recently posted a question on Facebook asking what season was a person’s favorite and why. The responses received were awesome. One person in particular wrote, all, for their individual reasons. I am going to take the next four posts and write about each season and what I like about them because I was inspired by this person’s comment. 

Let’s start with winter because January starts the year off. I love the winter and the cooler temperatures. Snow is beautiful, before it gets brown and mushy. The white calm of a winter morning when no one is out, and the fresh powder rests on the ground in the quiet dawn, is an amazing sight. I love the feeling of winter and the chill on my face, down my esophagus as I breathe in, and the midst out of my mouth as I exhale. A warm cup of cocoa in hand and I am the happiest of people. One of my favorite things to do is knit and this makes the colder months quite enjoyable for me. I love handmade gifts and making gifts for others. Sweaters, hats, scarves, and mittens, etc. are all items filling up our closet at home. Luckily, because we go outside often, we are able to get a good use out of these treasures.

Sled Dog

Another reason I and my husband love winter is for the activities in the outdoors. We love snowshoeing through the woods for hours on end discussing everything we see and just relaxing. I know for many this is strange, but we also love to shovel snow! It is an amazing workout and very calming. I also love watching winter sports like hockey, figure skating, snowboarding, skiing etc. I had the pleasure of dogsledding in Alaska some years ago and it was glorious. Being out in the wilderness running and riding with dogs, and watching their excitement was awesome. I loved looking at the trees covered in a magical white dusting and the sunlight coming through the pine needles. This thought leads me to Christmas which is my most loved holiday. All my happiest memories are tied into this time of year. You can read about some of the reasons in my previous blog titled Christmas Ornaments. Please go ahead and leave your favorite weather or season in the comments below. I would love to keep this conversation going! Have a happy Monday and look for Spring on Wednesday!

-Karen Hilliard

True Renaissance

In my last blog I mentioned the importance of having a close group of friends to critique work and bounce ideas off of as something I find helpful. One friend in particular, one of my main sources of confidant for my art projects is such a person. They are the true embodiment of a person who writes, paints, creates in many mediums, and is a philosopher, an inventor, etc. In my mind, they can literally do anything they set their mind to. The reason I chose to write about them in this blog is to motivate others. Anytime I am confused, scared, or nervous about entering a competition, figuring things out on social media, you name it, they are there. A positive force in my life that builds me up and adds the word “and” instead of “but” when bouncing ideas off of them. They are considered a family member to me in so many ways and one of my husband and my closest friends. They watched our dog for us once and we came home to this beautiful painting of a tree from Mt. Charleston as a wonderful gift just because.

Karen Hilliard Art Blog

This person is a rare entity who is so intelligent but does not boast, well not to many. People who meet them would not even fathom their level of brilliance. It takes them a good while to show their true self and I am so fortunate they opened up to become part of my family. Anytime I have a problem or question, they are who I communicate with to figure out my next steps art wise. They are a digital creator as well as a phenomenal writer. I am putting the link to their website and I highly recommend checking out their artwork. If you like any of their paintings and wanted to purchase anything, you would be helping out an amazing person. Currently this person is working many jobs and their main one is at a hospital cooking food for patients. They are just fantastic and I hope you like their style of artwork as it always lifts me up. I personally enjoy their humor, intelligence, and whimsy in every piece of artwork they create. Their writing may be my favorite. I am leaving their name off of this post as they are very humble and want their art to speak for itself. Please enjoy viewing their work at hagabaudr8.art 

Their writing is under “Stories,” Blog is under “Logbook,”  and their artwork is under the “Portfolio” link at the bottom of every page on the website. 

Thank you for reading my blog and have a happy weekend!

-Karen Hilliard

Getting Ideas Together

Daily sketching for the series “The Wonder of Trees” has brought my mind to new places. So many ideas are floating around inside my head for where I want to take this series and what I want my viewers to get out of the experience. Trees are wonderful in so many ways. I find myself focusing on the intricacies of the bark. The lines or striations that grow, adapt, and develop overtime are fascinating to me. Nature has so many rich and subtle colors and everyone sees these differently. I love using a brown and blue mixture of paint to get the dark shadows and let these hues dry for days or weeks. They are so rich and deep all on their own and stand out with such presence. These colors remind me of how I feel when out walking on a hike and staring up at these tall wonders.

There will be a variety of trees in this series. Not all will be tall wonders with their roots planted firmly in the ground outstretching for miles. Some trees will be wood curled upon itself, fallen from their mighty mountain tops, or simply bushes that have rolled their way into a new life. Finding random cactus, weeds, and bushes that have turned into a hard wood appearance is a great joy of mine. I also love how Joshua trees form a hard seed pod that could be used as a baby’s rattle with all the dried seeds inside. The outer appearance is wrinkled, lined, speckled, and amazing. I did a whole series on these pods under my Acrylic Paintings Tab if anyone would like to see what I am writing about.

What are some amazing hikes you have been on? Did you find anything fascinating while you were walking? I always love walking in the Redwood Forests of California. The coastal air or salt and sea is wonderful. The trees always make me feel cool and shaded from the sun in a form of protection. I love the ferns on the ground and the forest floor filled with debris from the trees above. Almost as if I am walking in a whole different world filled with possibilities. I would love to hear about your experiences, hiking or otherwise. Especially, how the journey made you feel or what it made you wonder about. Thank you for reading! Until next time…

-Karen Hilliard

The Wonder of Trees

One of my greatest passions is hiking among trees. I love the way they look, feel, smell, and sway in the wind. Standing under their massive beauty in a rain storm is also quite enjoyable. Their leaves and needles glisten with rain drops. The series I am focusing on now is the bark of trees. I am using macro and micro details to show images I find in their trunks. Oh the stories these creatures could tell if only they could talk to us. They have an amazing way of communicating with each other and the forest around them. I wish we could hear their language. In this series, I am trying to portray faces and creatures that I see in the lines or details of these giant wonders.

Each painting will be sketched out in my book beforehand to finalize the image I wish to show. I love how viewers see different impressions in my art than I intended. I love hearing and reading comments on these pieces because you all inspire me by showing me different perspectives of my own intentions. This has always fascinated me about painting, drawing, poetry, music, etc. The arts have a way of opening our mind and creativity to such amazing beauty. So please, send me messages, emails, or texts of what you see in the wood pieces that I will be creating throughout the journey of this series.

In this fallen tree from Mt. Charleston I see a pointed nose of maybe a witch or wizard. I wondered what this person was thinking and feeling. The colors of orange and dark brown/blue reminded me of Halloween and my mind drifted to watching the person doing spells. The painting also reminds me of wood nymphs, or dryads. I love how intrigued I get by being out in nature. I hope all of you have a place you can go that brings you immense joy and creativity. Even turning the home into a creative space is quite enjoyable. Let me know what you see in this painting if you get a moment in your day, or any of my paintings. I would love to know what you see! Thank you for reading.

-Karen Hilliard

Hiking Mt. Charleston

The air is crisp and low. Snow has settled on the ground yet is starting to burn off as the winter season is coming to a close. People and dogs are hiking and enjoying themselves on this glorious Nevada mountain. The terrain is rocky and steep in sections, the tops of trees sway in the wind, and my family is having a great time outdoors. I wander around taking photographs, the dog plays in the snow, and my husband is among the trees feeling delighted with every moment. These are my two favorite beings to be with and they both make everything even more beautiful.

One of the things we always stop and do is smell the trees. Ponderosa Pines let off a scent of butterscotch. We recommend this to everyone we meet on hikes, “smell these trees! They smell like butterscotch!” One of my good friends told me this same thing many years ago on the North Loop Trail up to Raintree. I told my husband when we met and went on this hike for our first date. Now, it has become our constant. Hence, we love sharing this knowledge with others. When you are out, near a Ponderosa Pine, please, stop and smell the tree! You will not be disappointed. Along the hike, as we smell the Ponderosas, I am also studying all the trees and finding images in their bark.

The base of the tree has many faces in the lines. I see creatures in the textures and my mind begins to wander. I take photographs or sketch what I see when out in nature. Then, I come home and either paint the same day or wait many years to start a painting. Mt. Charleston Series 1 of my original Tiny Paintings were painted a long time after I took the photographs in 2015. The paintings did not come to pass until 2020, five years later. The pictures in this blog are from two different events in my and Chris’s timeline. The painting was from a photograph taken when we first met and the pictures with our dog are from 2018. In the painting I saw the head of a crow. What do you see?

-Karen Hilliard